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Alex Ferguson does not like Liverpool. Top, top ‘autobiography’

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Alex Ferguson’s comments about Steven Gerrard are fine. He’s not a “top, top player” (when did ‘top, top’ become acceptable?) insists Ferguson* who has every right to say that. He’s worked with players who have been top, top players so he should recognise one when he sees one.

Funny thing is though, he hasn’t worked with Gerrard. He’s been on the receiving end of him instead. Carling Cup Final defeats, goals in 4-1 defeats etc. Gerrard clearly doesn’t like Manchester United. So it’s a comment with a bit of history, rather than fact, as Rafa might have put it.

But the real question is: how much does Alex Ferguson love Manchester United? He loves the institution he created. He loves the success he has had. But he was interested in other things. Money. Power. He wasn’t afraid to have a go at the fans when they threatened that. He didn’t show any love for the Manchester United fans who sought to separate themselves from the club when the big, bad (or not, if you listen to Fergie) Glazers moved in.

He was at the institution for the best part of three decades, so it’s home. Of course it is. But, and this isn’t new news, the need to put out this book can only have been motivated by money, rather than the best interests of the club, its new manager, owners or fans.

In his defence, I can’t imagine Fergie would have trouble telling people what he thought of them face to face. But that also means it is doubtful that he felt a strong need to ‘get things off his chest’ by publishing the book, as people have suggested this week.

Kenny Dalglish says in the Mirror today that while Fergie may not have lost any sleep over any of Kenny’s signings he “certainly lost a few points” as a result of them.

That may be true, to an extent. But more interesting, is the need for people like Kenny (who remains respected in the game, despite recent gaffes) to come out and take a pop at Ferguson. He will certainly lose goodwill. Goodwill that he shouldn’t have had in my own, unbiased** opinion. Respect his achievements, yes. But admire the man? No thanks.

*   I haven’t read it. I assume the media have got it correct.

** Lies

As if Moyes doesn’t have enough on his plate.

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Gerrard scores from it. Rodgers’ tactics miss it.

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

An entertaining game at St James’ Park, but another one in which Liverpool have dropped points where they shouldn’t have, having played for most of the game with an extra man.

Newcastle had a player, deservedly, sent off for the third game in a row, as Yanga-Mbiwa saw red for a drag back on Suarez late in the first half (wonder if he had that half-time chat with Montpellier?)

In the BT Sport studio, David Ginola argued that it shouldn’t be a red card as the punishment multiplies for a single offence with the (a) penalty – which it was (b) red card and (c) goal.

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Er. So if Gerrard miss the penalty, the incentive is on the defender to deny Suarez the goalscoring opportunity, no? Drag him back, concede the penalty, and take a risk that the opposing team misses, while seeing your name go into the book. Sorry, I’m not buying it.

Also, I feel Newcastle were in a strong position down to ten. They had shown last year that they could withstand relentless pressure from Liverpool down to ten, and looked in little danger of conceding a third yesterday.

The panel also focused on Cabaye at half time. Fair enough, he was playing well. But the star for Newcastle was Cheik Tioté, who looked like the player he was when they first signed him. Liverpool were lucky that he had a knock and was late getting out of his own half to help Suarez stay onside for the penalty.

I could see the logic of the 3-5-2/5-3-2 yesterday if it was what Rodgers felt would win the game against Newcastle.

They rely on several creative players, and lack invention from the wings. So, stifle Remy and Ben Arfa and you have a good chance. But I think you need Lucas in the team. The idea being that Cissokho (poor yesterday) and Johnson bomb on with support from Gerrard and Henderson, but Lucas is there to stop Newcastle’s counter-attackers (who played well yesterday).

We lost (the chance to win three points) in the middle of the park. Shame Enrique wasn’t in as well. Cissokho played the same role, get forward until closed down, cut back, and lay the ball off to the supporting man. But, crucially, Cissokho tended to go backwards, rather than pass inside and go further forward to stretch the opposition.

Johnson got more joy on the right through his own impetus to attack, but Cissokho had more space on the left, and the game was crying out for a player to really go at Debuchy. I would’ve liked to see Agger given a go at bringing the ball forward, despite it not being his favoured position.

Gerrard played sporadically well, but gave the ball away with a couple of attempted killer passes. Good to see him get his 100th Premiership goal (and especially nice to see him beat Krul, the league’s most irritating keeper) Sturridge and Suarez played fine, but still seem to be in the same part of the pitch when we aren’t counter-attacking.

When we are, they’re superb. The Suarez chip for Sturridge’s equaliser was magic (his touch down in the right hand side of the penalty area earlier in the game one of the best I’ve ever seen).

I think Mignolet is too far to the left for the goal, which gives Cabaye a nice part of the goal to aim at. After that, the shot is brilliant, but it could be that Sakho should have got closer to him (and ducked the shot slightly when Cabaye hit it), though I may be stretching it there.

The second goal is woeful. Cissokho is asleep, Sakho not much better. Shocking, and cost us the three points.

What bothers me is that we got a bit lucky with Gerrard’s equaliser (stupid defending). The formation had not been working, and it was 40 minutes in when we got the chance. Change should have been made earlier, for me.

Likewise, at 1-1, we still looked flat. I would have liked to see Lucas replace Cissokho, send Johnson to left back to really get at Debuchy and have Kolo at right back. Shame Allen didn’t get 20 minutes at the end as well, when Newcastle were tiring and we were lacking inspiration.

We had quite a few not quite matchfit players yesterday, so that should improve. But if Rodgers is persisting with this formation to sit our two front players, the return of Coutinho can’t come quickly enough.

Skrtel played well and I think Sakho should carry on playing, as he is an eventual first-team choice for the foreseeable future. There has to be an argument for Agger to play at left-back for a while, though Enrique gives us attacking options that we don’t have from defensive players (why can none of our centre-backs attack the ball properly at corners??).

West Brom at home next week. Need a win, before a tricky run of fixtures which includes Arsenal and Everton away in the following three (and a nasty set of games over December).

Alan Pardew v Liverpool. Not on to a winner.

October 18, 2013 1 comment

Alan Pardew has insisted that Liverpool’s 6-0 trouncing of his Newcastle team at St James’ Park last year has been put behind them ahead of today’s clash.

The Newcastle boss is quoted as saying Liverpool “have got a really great attacking flair and the team is set out to score goals” on Newcastle’s club website.

And it’s exactly that type of astute comment that will ensure Liverpool don’t arrive quaking in their boots. Oh, and the memories of the 6-0 scoreline should help.

Taking a look through Wikipedia the Charlton, West Ham and Newcastle record books on Friday, I make Alan Pardew’s record against Liverpool as played 11; won 2; drawn 2; lost 7 (I can’t find any cup games, FA Cup final apart).

Admittedly that includes the FA Cup final in 2006, lost on penalties after a 3-3 draw after extra time, but I’m counting that as a loss. Because they didn’t share the trophy in the type of style John Terry may have proposed.

Pardew’s first win over Liverpool as Newcastle came in his very first game in charge (3-0; Nolan, Barton, Carroll). Liverpool were woeful. And to make it all the more sweet, Andy Carroll’s performance and third goal probably played a part in Liverpool losing their minds and panic buying paying £35m for him.

Four defeats from four against the reds while at West Ham; a solitary game and point on the last day of a season that had already seen Charlton relegated (Kewell with a 90th minute penalty to level the game); but a rather better record of two wins and a draw from six in his time on Tyneside.

But a hammering last year. And red cards for Debuchy (0-6) and Coloccini (1-1). Also, Suarez and Sturridge only played once each against Newcastle last year, but managed three goals between them. And Stewart Downing started last year and got two assists. TWO ASSISTS.

Coloccini misses out tomorrow through injury, while Gutierrez is on compassionate leave. Coutinho, a star in last year’s 6-0 triumph, is Liverpool’s only concern (does Iago Aspas missing count? Rodgers has already hailed it as his ‘strongest’ squad of the season). Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, substituted last month against Everton at half-time with the team 3-0 down, is expected to come in alongside Mike Williamson.

(Gratuitous Joe Kinnear shot. If he was managing, Newcastle would win 6-0).

Still, if he has another nightmare against a Merseyside team today, at least Montpellier’s chairman Louis Nicollin will be there to console him. Unless he’s predicting Yanga-Mbiwa will have a stinker and need a new club by 2.30pm.

There are reasons for Reds fans not to be overly optimistic though. The 2-0 reverse in April 2012 saw Papiss Cissé score two, and Ben Arfa run the show.

But this is a very different Liverpool team (Flanagan, Spearing, Shelvey, Carroll, Bellamy vs Johnson, Henderson, Allen, Suarez, Sturridge) and Liverpool should have too much. Assuming they don’t get internationalbreakitus.

A win today, followed by another against West Brom at home next week, and the prospect of top-4 looks achievable.

 

Andy Carroll – Where’s the support?

January 13, 2012 4 comments

In his defence…..

Andy Carroll is widely regarded as the biggest flop of the Premiership season to-date. Fernando Torres, pound for pound, perhaps deserves the title, but pundits have grown tired of taking him to task after each 12 minute cameo in the blue of Chelsea.

But every game the Spaniard starts (usually against weaker opposition) you think to yourself, Torres could get a couple today. In fact, he could get a couple any day. But he probably won’t until Roman Abramovich orders Villas Boas to make the Spaniard penalty taker (and even then I’m not sure I’d bet on him finding the net).

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Pic: Andy Carroll in training ahead of the clash with Stoke (Pic from www.liverpoolfc.tv)

The problem with Andy Carroll is, you don’t ever start a game thinking, this could be his day. But rather than bash him for his lack of touch, pace, fitness, finesse, whatever the various criticisms are, let’s consider for a minute that he’s lacked the right support to blossom at Anfield.

(1): Stewart Downing/ Liverpool’s lack of width.

Carroll thrives, we hear all the time, on good crosses. He’ll win more than 50 per cent of hopeful balls launched at him in the air, but when he’s really attacking the ball, the percentage rises. In his games so far he’s shown that if you give him a ball to attack rather than hold up, he tends to beat defenders (though his accuracy is also questionable here).

But the one time he got a chance to do that in the recent 3-0 defeat to Man City, was from a cross from Jose Enrique. Carroll peeled away at the back post, easily beat Clichy with a perfect nod-down for Kuyt whose shot was superbly blocked by Vincent Kompany. So where’s the support from the £20m signing from Aston Villa.

When Downing signed, everyone said he would provide the ammunition for Carroll. To-date, Downing has been the biggest flop of the Premiership season.

Kuyt, Maxi and Henderson have all been tried on the right wing, none are any use to Carroll. Bellamy has been superb at driving crosses in from right and left, but tends to get to the penalty area and cut the ball back, something Gerrard is sure to benefit from in the coming weeks and that the likes of Shelvey and Maxi have already benefited from to-date this season.

The midweek game against Man City was exactly the wrong one for Carroll who played a thankless task in Liverpool’s 1-0 grind. His opportunity early in the game was on his weaker foot, however he out-muscled Savic and created space for the chance which was well-saved by Hart, the league’s most in-form keeper.

When Carroll plays, he needs support and space to make more of those opportunities to score.

(2): The Aquilani experience

Have Liverpool not learned from the signing of Aquilani from Roma? The club was arguably taking more of a risk with the Italian, not only was he injured but his move to the Premiership was bound to throw up the usual ‘foreign playmaker cant hack the rough stuff’ questions?

The signing of a half-fit Carroll in January made little sense. His role in the second half of the season was minimal and Liverpool knew signing him he would have little impact on their season.

The argument that Suarez couldn’t play in Europe was fine, but Carroll wouldn’t play for the team till March and it didn’t seem as though Europe was anyone’s priority in the early days of Kenny Dalglish’s second coming.

Another argument went that the more Newcastle demanded for the striker, the more Liverpool asked from Chelsea for Torres.

But that makes little sense from a business point of view either. Carroll had started well in the Premiership, but in the summer, once he had recovered fitness, he would hardly have cost more than the amount Liverpool eventually shelled out for him in January 2011.

There is an argument, in fact, that Carroll would have cost less as Newcastle would have had time to buy a replacement, but maybe the move was to appease Lfc fans who expected a marquee signing to replace their former idol in the number nine shirt.

Carroll has lost weight and looks fit, but seems to have lost confidence and was his touch always that bad? His goal against Oldham showed he can still turn things around at Liverpool, but against a defeated team late in an FA  Cup third round?

He has a run of games now to show his worth. The Geordie has found himself in and out of the team all season (unlike Stewart Downing who has been given every chance to prove his worth) and has mostly played without Liverpool’s best players Gerrard and Suarez (more often than not chosen instead of, rather than alongside Carroll).

At home, against so-called ‘weaker’ opposition is the time for Carroll to show he can still bully defences and can score goals like that against Oldham given half a chance. Better strikers than Carroll have been given more time to find their feet and the 23-year-old has barely 100 first team starts to his name.

Stoke at Anfield is time to show an ‘old-fashioned centre forward’ can still prove his worth. However if he fails to impress in the coming month, Andy may go down alongside Aquilani as yet another expensive Liverpool mistake.

Liverpool 1 Sunderland 1

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

All the debate post match here has been about the yellow card shown to Kieran Richardson for the last-man foul on Suarez early in the game.

Suarez missed a penalty but scored minutes later

Dalglish got it right at the start when he talked about how no-one wants to see a guy given a red card that early in the game (season) and in truth it makes a sort of sense. Had Suarez buried the penalty Liverpool could have strolled it and there would not have been a reason to look at the incident as a talking point.

Personally feel that Suarez, unlike Steve Bruce’s claim, had timed his run around the keeper perfectly, would have scored and was thus denied a legitimate goalscoring position by the foul. Did Richardson know what he was doing with the foul? Probably, but the slightest contact at full tilt was always going to send Suarez to ground, legitimately, as a tangle of legs ensues once one foot stops doing what it’s supposed to with a trip.

 

(Courtesy of Sky Sports. Video from YouTube)

That said, a yellow card and a penalty is probably the right call for the good of the game, depending on how blatant it is. Had Richardson taken Suarez  down nearer to the half way line with a clear run on goal looming ahead of the Uruguayan a red would have been justified. However Richardson did attempt to match him for pace, and did reasonably well. Once the keeper closes the striker down and the defender is back far enough to make a difference, the incident gets downplayed to a yellow in my opinion.

The £16 million pound question

The rest of the game was both satisfying and worrying for Liverpool fans. Downing and Adam looked bright, and perhaps more of a talking point was Carroll’s strike being wrongly ruled out for a push that was barely evident. How Jordan Henderson fits into the team is more of a question mark. This is a player who was called up for England in the first half of last season before being dropped by Steve Bruce when his performances dipped. He’s also not had a full summer break, having played for England u-21s in their Euro 2011 tournament, where he failed to shine.

Gerrard will (presumably) eventually return to full fitness, while Raul Meireles, if he stays at Anfield, will expect a place and generate more of a threat going forward. Once again it seemed as if Liverpool were in decent control of the game with few Sunderland chances, but it is breaking teams down as Ashley Young just did for Manchester United that will prove crucial.

Dirk Kuyt ended the season in good goalscoring form but is not a right-winger and Dalglish seems to realise that pace is needed for Liverpool when going forward. Kuyt will have a role, potentially in more defensive formations against the bigger teams, but Meireles and Gerrard may be needed to break down weaker opponents at the expense of Henderson and Adam.

Chelsea and Arsenal both drew, getting Liverpool off the hook slightly, but both had away games. This should have been a banker for a strong Liverpool team aside from Gerrard, Johnson and Skrtel being absent. Arsenal next week shouldn’t be a crucial game but is, as the Gunners are struggling for morale and will be missing key players with Gervinho and Song expected to miss out through Joey Barton (or suspension as the FA will no doubt call it).

Expect a similarly attack-minded Liverpool team but fitness and the possible appearance of some new Arsenal players will no doubt have a bearing….

Poll: Will new owners bring success to Liverpool? #lfc

October 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Will new Liverpool owners turn around the club’s fortunes?

October 6, 2010 1 comment

Some day soon I will write a blog post that doesn’t involve Liverpool. But it’s hard when every day seems to bring a new crisis. But today Liverpool fans are beginning to believe in the future of the club again.

Henry has brought glory back to the Red Sox. Can he do it at Liverpool?

A proposed takeover by New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball club, was confirmed this morning on Liverpool’s website after the news broke late last night that two investors had bids accepted. But the bid has been delayed by a legal challenge by the ever-classy Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

So now that a deal is finally on the horizon, what are the main questions Liverpool fans should be asking of the new owners?

  • Will spending money be made available to put Liverpool back among the European elite?

Too early to say obviously, but here are the main answers from the main men today.
Martin Broughton, Liverpool FC Chairman: Yes. They don’t want any hostages to fortune, very sensibly, so they’re not going to make any comments about how much or anything like that. But this goes back to the winning mentality. I think the demonstration is: let’s look at what they have done at Boston, what they said in Boston, what they have done in terms of investing in players – and I think you get a high degree of confidence of their willingness to do that.”

NESV statement: “NESV wants to create a long-term, financially solid foundation for Liverpool FC and is dedicated to ensuring that the club has the resources to build for the future, including the removal of all acquisition debt. Our objective is to stabilise the Club and ultimately return Liverpool FC to its rightful place in English and European football, successfully competing for and winning trophies.

The video made to protest against Tom Hick’s continued messing around with Liverpool Football Club, by Mike Jefferies:

The question now will be whether or not the owners will invest money in the staff and playing facilities and genuinely attempt to win with Liverpool on and off the field.

There is no doubt businessmen only make investments to make money. Owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry would have to be a massive Liverpool fan, a die-hard, to invest simply for the sake of restoring glory to the club. He is not.

However Liverpool fans can be reassured that there is money to be made in the club, without Henry pulling a Hicks number and attempting to sell on the club a few years after buying them and saddling them with greater debt. Liverpool are a club supported far and wide but have not capitalised on this since the glory days of the 80s. Manchester United had the right businessmen involved and capitalised to a far greater extent. But there is room for improvement and the new owners can look to the far east where there is still money and make Liverpool rival Man Utd in a commercial sense.

Plus the costs involved in making Liverpool a force again aren’t enormous. The club need five or six very good players, but despite the woes of the last few years, have retained a nucleus of very good players with good players coming through too. Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Gerrard, Meireles, Shelvey, Pacheco, Torres can all take the club forward, while the likes of Kelly, Ngog (still only 21 remember!), Amoo, Ince, Suso and Ngoo have exciting futures ahead of them.

Will there be a new stadium, finally?

This is the interesting question with Broughton already hinting that the new owners could look to redevelop Anfield, as they did with the famous Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

Whether that is possible remains to be seen. Of greater interest is the rumour that the new owner will look at groundsharing with Everton as a better alternative. Liverpool fans may come around to the idea if it means a much bigger stadium, better facilities and a greater chance of securing tickets for fans.

It will be a big sell though. But then again, so will the new owners.